The Manipur police have registered a case against the Editors Guild of India (EGI) for allegedly promoting enmity between different groups, under Sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), after the latter published a report on media’s reportage of the ethnic violence in Manipur on September 2.
The EGI said it received several representations, including a written complaint on July 12 by the Indian Army’s 3rd Corps headquarters citing specific examples of the media in Manipur suggesting that it may be playing “a major role in arousing passion and not letting sustainable peace to come in”.
In Imphal, Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh said at a press conference that his government had filed a First Information Report (FIR) against the president and three members of the EGI and accused them of trying to provoke clashes in the State. He said that at a time when many have been killed and left homeless, the EGI published a “totally one-sided” report without understanding the complexity of the crisis faced by Manipur, the background and the history of the State.
The FIR was filed by N. Sarat Singh, a social worker from Imphal West, who, according to the complaint, has been “working locally to bring peace and help the people stranded in relief camps.” The complaint claimed that the EGI report is “false, fabricated and a paid news and sponsored by Kuki militants.”
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The EGI report stated that there is extreme pressure on journalists whether Meitei or tribal, to reflect the dominant view of their ethnic societies and the situation was made more difficult with the ban on the Internet, that is an essential tool of modern journalism.
It said that the “ethnic divide in the media was so deep that news stories, as well as editorials, began to blame Assam Rifles for protecting the Kuki tribals.” The Kuki-Zo people were described as “narco-terrorists” trying to enlarge their space in land strapped Manipur by liberally using drug money.
“During the ethnic violence, journalists of Manipur wrote one-sided reports. In normal circumstances, they would be cross-checked and monitored by their editors or chiefs of bureaus from the local administration, police and security forces. However, this was not possible during the conflict....Meitei media became a party to the vilification of the security forces, especially the Assam Rifles,” the report said.
Besides EGI President Seema Mustafa, those who were booked are three senior journalists — Seema Guha, Bharat Bhushan and Sanjay Kapoor — who visited the State between August 7 and 10 to study media reportage on the ethnic violence.
“They are anti-State, anti-national and anti-establishment [people] who came to pour venom. Had I known it before, would not have allowed them to enter....I also give a warning to the members of the Editors Guild, if you want to do something, please come to the spot, see the ground reality, meet the representatives of all communities, all victims and publish what you found. Otherwise, meeting some sections of the people only and coming to a conclusion — that’s a disservice and is condemnable,” Mr. Singh said.
The claim that eviction was carried against one community only is “not true”, he said, adding that the drive began in 2015 and 413 houses have been vacated “for the welfare of the general public”. Of the 413 houses, Mr. Singh said, 59 belonged to the Kukis, 143 to Meiteis, 137 to Manipuri Muslims, 38 to Nagas and 36 to Nepalis.
The Chief Minister wondered why nobody spoke anything about “the mother” who gave clothes to the women, who were paraded naked, and sent them home.
He said that the EGI’s report came when investigations are being carried out by several committees constituted by the Supreme Court and the Central government. Mr. Singh said an FIR had been registered against Kuki Inpi Manipur leader K. Haokip for allegedly declaring that no Meiteis can enter the India-Myanmar border town of Moreh till there is a political solution.
The EGI report said that members of the State leadership labelled sections of the Kuki-Zo tribals as “illegal immigrants” and “foreigners” without any reliable data or evidence.
“This despite the fact that the decadal census from 1901 to 2011 has not shown any unusual growth of the non-Naga [the other minority tribal community] tribal population,” the report said.
The fact that there was a military coup in Myanmar which led to an inflow of about 40,000 refugees to Mizoram and reportedly about 4,000 to Manipur “was used to brand all Kuki-Zo as illegal immigrants”.
The Editors’ Guild members were booked under various Sections of the IPC, including 153A (promoting enmity between two communities), 200 (using false declaration as true), 298 (deliberate intent to wound religious feelings), and defamation with criminal conspiracy.
More than 160 people were killed and more than 50,000 were displaced after ethnic violence between the Kuki and Meitei communities erupted in the State on May 3, after a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ was organised in the hill districts to protest against a High Court order to consider including the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) list. There are 34 ST communities in Manipur.